Dealing with Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)

Udaya LAMICHHANE, Section Chief of Family Medicine

Let me start this article on a positive note: Most Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) can be easily cured with antibiotics; others have no known cure but are treatable /manageable; if detected early.

STIs are global health problems, which can easily spread to others through sexual contact, including vaginal sex, anal sex, and oral sex; and left untreated, some STDs can lead to long-term health problems, particularly in women and infants, which include pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, ectopic pregnancy, cervical cancer, and perinatal or congenital infections in infants born to infected mothers.

And let’s never forget this one: Infection with certain STIs can increase the risk of getting and transmitting HIV.

Major public health concern about STIs is that the prevalence of STIs is increasing in both men and women and among  adolescents, which is partly because people are becoming sexually active at a younger age, are having multiple sexual partners, have unprotected sex, or take part in other high-risk sexual behaviors. Information from a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study showed that among adolescent females who ever had sexual intercourse, the most common STD is human papillomavirus (HPV), followed by Chlamydia, trichomoniasis, genital herpes, and gonorrhea. Some strains of HPV are linked to genital warts and other strains are linked to cervical, anal, and other genital cancers.

People can pass STIs to sexual partners even if they themselves do not have any symptoms. Frequently, STIs can be present but cause no symptoms, especially in women due to anatomical variation from men.

The only way to find out for sure if one has an STI is to get tested by a medical professional. Separate tests are needed to detect most types of STIs. There are more than 25 different types of STIs recognized. The most common are Chlamydia, gonorrhea, genital herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), Hep B & Hep C (sometimes also referred to as STI although most common way of infection here is parenteral), syphilis, trichomoniasis, mycoplasma and HIV. Other less commonly discussed are pubic lice/crabs, Chancroid, Molluscum contagiosum,, Lymphogranuloma Venereum (LGV), etc.

Unfortunately till today we do not have vaccines to help protect from all STIs but there are effective vaccines against some strains of HPV and viral hepatitis B.

So, before thinking about treatment we all know prevention is better than cure: so let’s have protected sex.

If you are sexually active and may have been exposed to STI; or if you have any signs and symptoms of STI, do not hesitate to see your doctor as soon as possible for further assessment and immediate treatment.